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Deede Weithorn


As published in the Miami Herald on August 26th, 2007

To the editor,
There have been many articles in the press stating that after property tax reform the savings to homeowners will be minimal.  Although that is true, there is another side to this issue. 

One of the main points of property tax reform is that it will limit the growth local governments.  This in turn will reduce the rate of which non-Homesteaded property taxes will increase.  This is very important because over time taxes will become more inline with real market values.  The frustrating part is that this will take time to stabilize.

Sure we all wanted a dramatic fix to come out of Tallahassee, but moderation is important.  If we cut government budgets to drastically key services to residents and those in need will be eliminated.  City employees, police and fire fighters will get laid off.  Unemployment will increase.

Most experts fear the economic uncertainty ahead.  Will we end up in a recession?  Will banks falter?  These are real concerns. The good news is that Miami Beach is a unique desirable city.  As long as we stem the rise of both residential and commercial property taxes we should emerge from this crisis.

Deede Weithorn
Candidate Miami Beach Commission Group IV

An analysis by Deede Weithorn:

With the real estate market in trouble, lending institutions folding,
and recession looming, one might ask "how did we get here?"

One of the problems was how property tax appraisers calculated values on
commercial properties.  They used a method called "highest and best
use." This meant that if you owned a parking lot on 42nd Street and that
land was zoned for a 10 story condo building, the appraiser would
calculate your taxes not on a parking lot but on the potential 10 story

In the past the cost of holding undeveloped land was the debt service
and taxes.  As long as the taxes stayed low you could hold onto the land
indefinitely.  But if your taxes start going up based on Highest and
Best Use calculations, it becomes unaffordable to let the land sit.
This forces the hand of the land owner to develop the property to its
highest and best use.  Which sometimes is out of character with a
neighborhood. We end up with the self fulfilling prophecy of highest and
best use.

Highest and best use must also take into account the market valuation
approach.  The appraiser must look at the surrounding area and calculate
what the practical value of the land is.  For example, if there is a
glut of condos in that area then it wouldn't make sense to build another
condo building.

One county in the state of Florida to balance this market valuation
approach was Duval County (Jacksonville).  As a result, their cut in
taxes due to property tax reform was the lowest in the state.  They did
it right. There is no rule or law in Florida that requires all counties
property tax appraisers to be consistent or apply the same principles.

As a community and a state we should look at changing how we determine
property tax appraised values which could ease some of the burden to the
property owners.

Deede Weithorn
Candidate for Miami Beach City Commission Group VI